We Support the Multiracial Calls for a Safe and Just KU
November 13, 2015
Dear KU Community:
The Department of American Studies supports the recent call by KU students to immediately address and correct the University’s anti-black, anti-Latin@, anti-Asian American, anti-Native American, and anti-international student of color racism.
Students have the right to learn in an equitable, safe, and supportive academic environment. Many have openly expressed the belief that KU is not such a space. Racial microaggressions inside and outside the classrooms, hate crimes, race-themed student parties—these are all forms of emotional and/or physical violence and terror. They have been documented at KU and were revealed in climate survey data collected over a decade ago. Students verbalized these concerns last year and this semester during a series of public events focusing on the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, racist police practices, and more. For months, students have recorded and shared their experiences through Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, and reported them to residence hall managers, student services, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and upper-level campus administrators, specifically the Chancellor, Provost, and the Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity. Students organized as Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and others have brought this problem to the attention of the campus, and their concerns demand a meaningful response.
Despite hearing these grievances, KU administrators have been slow to acknowledge and address these grievances, which has only reinforced a view among too many students of color that they are neither valued nor safe at KU. This ineffective response is dangerous, as it implicitly affirms and heightens acts of racial offense, hatred, and terror. Consequently, we heard at the November 11, 2015 town hall, the testimony of African American students describing their physical and verbal victimization, which included racial and sexist hate language, physical assault and threat at gunpoint. They reported receiving no support from community police, let alone any serious concern from campus administration.
The recruitment and retention of students of color will only continue to suffer under such conditions. But make no mistake. White students are also harmed in the long run. KU does not require students to learn the complexities of race and ethnicity in the U.S. or the globe. Nor do they compel them to acquire knowledge and skills that may temper the racial acts of violence that occur on the KU campus. Consequently, all students are denied the opportunity to adequately prepare for competitive careers in teaching, human resources and management, social services, researchers, engineering, and corporate leadership in an increasingly diverse and global labor market and a liberal arts education enabling them to be informed citizens.
History tells us that we are the agents of change. We know that that students of color, their presence and contributions, MATTER to the mission of KU. We are a department committed to a fair and just campus, and we hold ourselves accountable for how we look and function as a unit. We have consciously built a multiracial/multiethnic faculty. Our courses emphasize the historical and contemporary understandings and complexities of race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality, labor and class, and religion. We await approvals from administrators of a Minor in Social Justice and a Certificate in Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.
Today we join students who demand that University administrators, too, hold themselves accountable for decisions, practices, and policies that perpetuate the forms of structural violence against students of color. Change is not only possible but is necessary for students of color and all of those committed to a better KU.
What exactly is “America”? America as we’ve known it is changing. The nation is experiencing greater racial and ethnic diversity. Concerns about the environment, food and poverty, and sustainability are being addressed, and solutions sought. The public is demanding greater equality for all, regardless of sexual preference or socioeconomic status. American culture is becoming increasingly diverse and its population more transnational. What are the meanings and boundaries of American citizenship? Who is “American” and who determines this? Read More »
David Roediger, University of Kansas, American Studies, Foundation Professor giving his Presidential address of the ASA in Toronto.
News story: "For Black Lives Matter, MLK's Kind of Activism Isn't the Only Way" published in the Christian Science Monitor, which features our own Randal Jelks among the scholars interviewed. Our congratulations and thanks go to Professor Jelks for critically weighing in on the national discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacies.
Steve Marston, PhD candidate published an article in the Fall 2015 issue of Kansas History. “Spectacles of Speed: Masculinity, Modernity and Auto Racing in Kansas, 1909-1918” More info »
Rebecca Barrett-Fox has a forthcoming book (University of Kansas Press June 2016), More info »